By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Philippine Daily Inquirer

*Pretends to be surprised.*

Nothing is new for former senator Bongbong Marcos as he will skip yet another presidential forum, this time, organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Saturday, March 19.

In a statement, Marcos’ camp spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said that the presidential aspirant’s declining invitation to participate in the debate is to “honor commitment” to meet with his supporters on that day.

“Presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos’ words are his bond, thus we shall honor our commitment to our supporters to be with them on the field on this day,” Rodriguez said.

With this development, only nine presidential aspirants are expected to go face-to-face on Saturday, namely, Vice President Leni Robredo, Labor Leader Ka Leody De Guzman, Dr. Jose Montemayor, former Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, Senator Manny Pacquiao, Senator Panfilo Lacson, former Defense chief Norberto Gonzales, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, and Faisal Mangondato.

Marcos ‘not coward’ says sister

Senator Imee Marcos, Bongbong’s sister, did not sit well with the trends of #MarcosDuwag, a hashtag that trended social media platforms every time the presidential hopeful skipped presidential interviews and forums.

“I’m annoyed at the hashtag ‘Marcos duwag.’ My brother is not a coward. And in my opinion, he can easily answer [the debate question]. Yun pa,” Imee Marcos told DWIZ.

She added during the interview: “On my part, [I know] my brother is sensitive. He’s kind. So he gets hurt when he’s being criticized.”

Marcos then said that there are tendencies in every forum that Bongbong’s fellow hopefuls are ganging up and hurling past issues against him and his family.

“As we all know, when you take that lead, they might gang up on my brother. So he advised not to [attend],” she said.

‘Birds of the same feather, flock together’ indeed

Meanwhile, Marcos’ running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio also decided to pursue her campaign without joining any debates.

“Yes, opo. We already released a statement about the debates. I have already decided that I will do this campaign without joining debates. Iniiwan ko na po ‘yan sa lahat ng ating kababayan ang pagdedesisyon sa pagpili nila sa vice president na ganito po ang aking direksyon sa kampanya,” Sara said.

The mayor then said she will inform the media should there would be another decision on the matter: “Well, kung magbago man o hindi (if I will change my mind), we will let you know, but as of this very moment that decision is to conduct this campaign without joining debates.”

Marcos has drawn flak from netizens for his no-shows in interviews, forums, and debates. It all started with the Jessica Soho presidential interviews on January 21 then succeeded by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) presidential forum on February 4 and debates of CNN Philippines on February 27.

He, however, accepted the invitation to sit down with “Asia’s King of Talk” Boy Abunda, presidential interview organized by radio station DZRH, cooking show and interview with Korina Sanchez-Roxas and Apollo Quiboloy’s SMNI debates.

As a consequence, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said that the candidates who will be absent in the upcoming forums will be barred from posting e-rally contents in the poll body’s social media accounts until the 90-day campaign period ends. He earlier stated that candidates’ absence in the election-related events are a “red flag” for voters.

Edited by: Phylline Calubayan